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Urban Land Use by Illegal Armed Groups in Medellin

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Journal article

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This article poses ideas about counterinsurgency, law enforcement, and stability operations in the context of land-use planning. Here, seven proposed categories of illegal slum land use are tested against a recent, complex Latin American case. Admittedly, this application of the term land use may be overly literal, and is to be distinguished from land-use planning. That latter term generally connotes a set of theoretical norms and objectives centered, in part, on the concept of sustainability often presented in planning literature as a balance or reconciliation of environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic maximization. Land-use planning also connotes a specialized set of opinions and plans coming from persons whom we can stereotype as technocratic and bureaucratic -- as governmental. Government land-use planning in Medellin, Colombia, has sought to achieve the values supposed by sustainability, but in the process has had to wrest land-use dominance from violent illegal armed groups IAGs, and to provide the population with physical security and conflict resolution services. Outsider illegal armed groups IAG pursue and enjoy eight principal, overlapping uses of urban slum land in Medellin in relation to their illicit pursuits. These eight land uses, in no particular order, are taxation, free trade, sanctuary, clandestine manufacture or processing, staging for violent operations outside the slum, safe transit of contraband, recruiting, and as a prison or graveyard for their victims. The IAG land-use categories are suitable as variables in a forensic policemilitary Geographic Information Systems GIS data table. While such use of GIS may be the most immediate or directly relevant application to government reduction of illegal armed groups, other uses, such as informing urban building and street design, may yield the more important longer term security benefits.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

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